"Memories of Tamazgha" Berber Identity and Memory Politics in Morocco and the European diaspora
History Erasmus University Rotterdam Rotterdam, The Netherlands
During the sixties, Moroccan emigration policy was aimed at actively recruiting from the underdeveloped and rebellious northern Rif Mountains: "le Maroc inutile" consisted of the areas where not the "Arabs", but the "Berbers" lived. Emigration from the Rif was thought to release the newly independent Moroccan state from existing political and "ethnic" tensions. A complex set of historical processes of migration, French "divide, debase and conquer" colonialism which envisioned the Berbers as "more European than the Arabs" and a rising Arab nationalism after Morocco's independence outline the background against which a contemporary, locally organised élite Berber nationalist scene in both Morocco and Moroccan diaspora in European cities is on the rise.
This paper analyses the ways in which this Berber identity is constructed and defined on a local level by "in-between generation" and "second generation" Moroccan-Berber nationalists through reflexive life story interviewing and investigates in particular the uses and representations of the pre-Arab and pre-Islamic history of North Africa or "Tamazgha" in their rising multicultural, secular and democratic discourses, often focussing on women's and minority rights.
A focus on the local levels of Antwerp and Rotterdam allows for an interesting comparison between two, though similar, also quite distinct forms of local identity politics and as contexts in which these Berber-Moroccans shape and sharpen their identities and collective memories. In addition, the historical and current position of the Berbers in Morocco is taken into account, offering not only a transnational perspective but also a diachronic approach to the construction of memories, ethnic identities and historical cultures in the context of migration.